Despite criticism of Dontrelle Willis for his early departure in his first appearance in Spring Training, it is too early to give up on him. I wrote in a previous article about how the gamble by the Chicago Cubs to give Dontrelle Willis another shot was a good one, and one minor setback is not enough to call off the whole experiment.
The fact of the matter is that Dontrelle Willis is a former 20 game winner in the MLB, and he is only 31 years old. Injuries are often a huge problem, and one can’t help but think of legends like Sandy Koufax, who pitched five years as perhaps the greatest the game has ever seen only to have injuries cut his career off completely. Of course, Dontrelle Willis didn’t win three Cy Young awards or have any seasons with a below 2.00 ERA (as Sandy Koufax had three of), but the comparison is still worth mentioning.
If injuries were never a problem for Dontrelle Willis, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be one of the dominant pitchers in the game today. The Chicago Cubs had similar problems with pitchers like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, both of whom could have very well been members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in the future if their bodies had held out long enough to keep it up for their whole careers. They certainly had that kind of talent, and so does Dontrelle Willis.
If the D-Train were in his late 30s, it would be time to call it quits, but a former 20-game winner who is only 31 years old is too young for anyone to be throwing in the towel. He doesn’t have a ton of time left, but patience with Dontrelle Willis could pay off in the long run.